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Coalition of Estonian organisations advocate for total ban on alcohol advertising



06.06.2024 - The Estonian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition (ETAK), a member organisations of NordAN, has formally proposed a complete ban on alcohol advertising to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. This proposal is presented as the ministry prepares amendments to the Advertising Act. ETAK's stance is grounded in public health concerns and supported by extensive research demonstrating the negative impacts of alcohol consumption and advertising.


Alcohol consumption and its consequences

ETAK highlights that alcohol consumption in Estonia remains a significant public health issue. In 2022, Estonian adults consumed an average of 11.2 liters of absolute alcohol per capita. This high consumption level correlates with severe health outcomes, including 753 deaths in 2021 directly attributed to alcohol-related diseases, the highest in the past 15 years. Alcohol is linked to over 200 diseases and injury types, including seven forms of cancer.


Ineffectiveness of moderate drinking

The coalition emphasizes that no level of alcohol consumption is safe, referencing the 2023 Nordic Nutrition Recommendation. This recommendation advises avoiding alcohol altogether due to its negative impact on nutrition quality and overall health. The document underscores that even moderate drinking can result in significant health risks, including cancer.


Advertising and its pervasive reach

ETAK argues that alcohol advertising inevitably reaches all demographics, including vulnerable groups such as children, adolescents, and individuals with alcohol dependency or mental health issues. The coalition contends that any form of alcohol promotion is a call to consume, which contradicts public health objectives.


International practices and effectiveness

The proposal draws parallels with successful advertising bans on other harmful products, such as tobacco, weapons, and prescription drugs, both internationally and in Estonia. For instance, Norway's comprehensive alcohol advertising ban since 1975 has led to a measurable decrease in youth drinking and overall alcohol sales. Similar policies in countries like Lithuania have shown positive results in reducing alcohol consumption and related harms.


Counterarguments and responses

ETAK addresses several counterarguments to the proposed ban. Critics argue that a ban would restrict free speech and harm domestic advertisers, but ETAK points to precedents set by tobacco advertising bans and other restricted products. The coalition also references research indicating that alcohol advertising significantly influences consumer behavior, especially among young people, and that removing such advertising would likely lead to reduced alcohol consumption.


Broader implications and societal benefits

ETAK asserts that the proposed advertising ban would support Estonia's broader public health goals, as outlined in the government's Green Paper on Alcohol Policy. The document aims to reduce the social, economic, and health damages caused by alcohol consumption and to provide a supportive environment for youth development and overall community well-being.


Conclusion

ETAK's proposal for a total ban on alcohol advertising is presented as a necessary step towards improving public health in Estonia. By eliminating the pervasive promotion of alcohol, the coalition believes that significant progress can be made in reducing alcohol consumption and its associated harms. This proposal is supported by extensive research and aligns with successful international practices, reinforcing the call for urgent legislative action.


The Estonian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition (ETAK) is supported by a diverse array of member organizations committed to reducing alcohol and tobacco-related harm. These include the Estonian Medical Association, the Estonian Union for Child Welfare, the Estonian Society of Family Doctors, the Estonian Psychiatric Association, the Estonian Parents' Association, the Estonian Health Promotion Association, the Estonian Mental Health and Welfare Coalition (VATEK), the Open Hope Foundation, MTÜ Salutare, and the Estonian Temperance Union. ETAK is a member of NordAN.

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